Mike Tomlin was pretty happy with Sean Davis following the Pittsburgh Steelers defender’s first start as the free safety, having previously spent the previous year and a half at strong safety. Overall, I was as well. His tackling technique and angles were solid overall, and served well as the last line of defense against the run.
The main point of interest for everyone though, I’m sure, is how he looked as the deep safety, so that is what I plan on exploring in this film session.
I’m going to start off with what I saw as one of the bigger negative plays from him, on which he was fortunate because Tyrod Taylor never threw the ball. It was on third and 13 early in the game, and he chose to scramble—still getting the first down—but could have had a homerun ball instead.
The Steelers were in cover two with Davis to the defensive right. He missed Jarvis Landry getting behind Mike Hilton, instead breaking for the out route that also turned upfield. Taylor would hit Landry on another play later in the game for a deep gain after Hilton took the underneath.
Taylor looked for David Njoku down the seam on the very next play with Jon Bostic in coverage. The pass was too high and just off-line, but Davis came over the clean up the play as a single-high safety, laying a big hit on the tight end.
Into the second quarter, he looked to have his first interception of the season when Taylor simply misfired looking for Landry down the field, who was covered by rookie safety Terrell Edmunds. I would say covered well, but Edmunds drew a holding penalty on the play that negated the takeaway.
Late in the fourth quarter, Hilton slipped in coverage working against Landry, cutting in front of the nickel defender on the out route. Davis had to stay back with a nine route heading his way, but once the pass was thrown he came down to clean up the play.
Finally, into overtime, he dropped back as the lone high safety, identifying the ball going to Njoku down the seam, and was able to get over in time to break it up. He looked upset that he didn’t pick this one off. This is a play I can’t see Mike Mitchell making.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is the first game of Davis’ career playing full-time as the deep safety, so it would be understandable for there to be a learning curve. But even with that disregarded, he played a good game all around, so that’s a positive start for this defense in 2018 and beyond.